FIVE OF JAPAN'S principal aerospace manufacturers have joined forces to approach Boeing for a share in developing the proposed growth 747-500/600X.

The companies are Japan's three "heavy industries" - Fuji, Kawasaki and Mitsubishi - together with ShinMaywa Industries and the smaller Japan Aircraft Manufacturing, or Nippi. Boeing is reported to be taking a "positive attitude" towards their proposal.

Any Japanese involvement in the project would be likely to be modelled on its participation in the Boeing 777 programme, with the support of funding from the Government's Ministry of International Trade and Industry.

All five companies are members of Japan Aircraft Development (JADC), which, as a partner supplier, has a 20.8% share of the 777's structure. JADC, and the Civil Transport Development before it, has also produced 15% of the Boeing 767's airframe since 1978.

Each of the three heavy industries contributes to the existing 747-400. Mitsubishi supplies the inboard trailing edge and main-landing-gear door actuator, Kawasaki its outboard trailing-edge flap and Fuji the spoilers and ailerons.

Japan is viewed as an important contributor to Boeing's programmes and its airlines are viewed as potential launch customers for the 747-500/600X. Japan Airlines, with its heavy dependence on long-range international traffic and high-density domestic routes, is particularly interested in the proposed stretched -600X.

The airline, the world's largest 747 operator, is understood to be discussing the conversion of 18 outstanding 747-400 orders to the planned new higher-capacity version. Although Boeing added these aircraft to its official backlog only in December 1995, they are not included in JAL's planning for the next two to three years. Industry sources suggest that the -600 could be used to replace 563-seat 747s on high-density routes from Tokyo to Sapporo or Fukuoka and some of the 70 weekly flights to Hawaii.

Source: Flight International